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Pompeii is one of the worlds most fascinating and historical UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was founded around the 7th–6th century BC by the Osci or Oscans, a people of central Italy, on what was an important crossroad between Cumae, Nola and Stabiae.

Deserted streets of Pompeii
Situated about about 8 kilometres away from Mount Vesuvius, it covers a total area of 163 acres, and in its day was a major city in the Italian region of Campania. 

Pompeii is currently found some distance inland, but in ancient times it would have been very near to the coast.

Pompeii first came into existence as little more than a group of small farms, but by its heyday, approximately 2000 years ago, Pompeii had grown into a thriving market town.

Its wealthiest citizens owned beautiful, multi-story homes which were luxuriously decorated in the very latest fashions.

Every grand house in Pompeii was built with an atrium - a paved courtyard. Its roof drained rainwater into a central pool known as an impluvium, which overflowed into a buried cistern. This also provided the house with drinking water.

Roman impluvium with grate leading to buried cistern
However, not everyone in Pompeii lived in a large house. As the city grew, poorer families rented tiny flats in apartment blocks known as cenacula. 

Few of the apartment had kitchen and so families often had to resort to eating street food from the many food bars found along the road side. 

During this period the bustling streets would echoed to the sound of foreign voices as Greek merchant ships used the port as a popular and profitable trading post.

In 89 BC, the city of Pompeii was approached by the Roman army as a show of authority, but the residents of Pompeii refused to let them past the city walls and subsequently rebelled. 

Of course they were easily defeated and as a warning to others Rome made Pompeii a colony and then converted it into a settlement for retired soldiers.

Vesuvius erupting
The city was hit by a major earthquake in 62 AD. Many of the city's wealthiest people left and the town was still in a state of disrepair for years afterwards. 

Tremors were part of normal life for the years after the earthquake. 

However, life as the Pompeiians knew it was about to come to an end when Mount Vesuvius erupted on the morning of the 24th August 79 AD.

Pompeii was buried under twelve different layers of volcanic material to a maximum depth of 25 meters.

After these thick layers of ash covered the town, Pompeii was abandoned and eventually its name and location was forgotten. 

The first time any part of Pompeii was unearthed was in 1599, when the digging of an underground channel to divert the river Sarno ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions.

The architect Domenico Fontana was called in and he unearthed a few more frescoes, but he covered them over again, and nothing more came of the discovery. 

A wall inscription had mentioned a decurio Pompeii  - 'the town councillor of Pompeii' - but the fact that it indicated the name of an ancient Roman city hitherto unknown was missed.

Luckily, it was rediscovered almost 150 years later in 1748 by the Spanish engineer, Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre. 
Plater casts of the fallen citizens of Pompeii

The now excavated town offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st century, frozen at the moment it was buried.

The objects that lay beneath the city have been well preserved for thousands of years because of the lack of air and moisture. 

These artefacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Roman period.

Uniquely, and perhaps rather grizzly, bodies of the Pompeii citizens were found during the excavations.

At the time plaster was used to fill in the voids between the ash layers that once held the human bodies. This now allows us to see the exact position the person was in when they died.

 Don't mistake these human shapes for simple plaster castes because they are not. Within the casings are the skeletal remains still exist!

Look carefully and you can see the evidence for yourself.

Pompeii attracts more than 2.5 million tourists a year and is Italy's second most visited attraction after the Colosseum in Rome.

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